Tuesday, 29 January 2013

How To Choose The Right Travel Guide For You

As far back as I can remember my first real 'trip' aged 10 where I traveled around Greece with the rest of my Latin class (I'd been to France a lot before that, but I see France as more of a second home, rather than a holiday destination) I have absolutely loved to travel. There are so many European cities that I've been to that I'm just itching to go back to and explore a bit more in depth, and I have been absolutely relishing the opportunity to explore and enjoy everything Los Angeles has had to offer me over the last few months here. Now that I'm older, 'grown up' and a lot more independent  while I'm sure I'm still going to look forward to exploring new places with my parents, I've been thinking a lot more about where I would like to go off and see for myself now that the only thing holding me back from seeing the world is that I have to earn the money to do so for each trip first; and that brings be onto the topic of this blog post; travel guides. 
Image via Garry Pepper Vintage

As you can probably guess, I get most of my information on most topics these days from the internet or from various apps. When people ask me how on earth I find all the restaurants I feature, both in London and in Los Angeles I would have no idea how to list all of the various sources where I get tips, but whenever I'm going to head off to a new city or area, some of the go to travel sources that I always check is the Time Out website for my given destination (I do not know where I would be without Time Out, or their London food twitter feed) as I have got some great food and gallery recommendations from them in the past, the Urbanspoon website if they have one for my destination, as I've found a lot of my restaurants on there (they also have a great app which gives you restaurants nearby depending on your location at the time) and I take a gander at the lovely Petite Passport blog to find places that are a little off the beaten track to check out. But, while I have thousands of websites I can check for fashion or beauty related questions, as far as my travel concerns go, this small list is just about it. Which means I have to resort to traditional travel guide booklets.

When I decided to get a book to read up on some places I ought to visit in Los Angeles last Summer, it was the first time I'd ever purchased a travel guide. I remember taking the DK Travel book on Greece out for the school library when I was a kid before that trip, and we had picked up the same edition guide but for Brittany, the region of France we live in to keep in our French kitchen when we were first getting to know the area, but that was about it with my experience of travel guides. As I was familiar with them, and I'd found them really useful in the past, I had planned to get the same edition of the guide for Los Angeles, but they did not make one. So I was stuck for which guide I should use. It was only when I was standing in a travel bookshop in West Hollywood flipping through different London guides to see what they were recommending tourists should do in my city, I realised the key to choosing the right travel guide for you. 

Before I arrived in Los Angeles, I had chosen the Wallpaper City Guides Guide for LA, and while it had some interesting things to do and see, it did not really suit my tastes and needs in regards to what I like to do and see in a city. The reason I had not got the Time Out guide in the first place while I loved their websites, was because of their websites; I felt I could get everything I wanted for free, online. So, while I was flipping through London guides, I found some of them listed the sort of places I loved to eat at, and I used to frequent, as well as galleries and museums I loved, spots I kept on returning to, and some of them I don't think would have been much use to me if I had been armed with it on a trip to London for the first time. So, when you want to find the perfect travel guide for you for any given destination head to a bookshop, look through all the guides to a city you're really familiar with, pick the one that matches up how you like to spend your time the most, and the chances are very, very high that the guide to your destination from the same collection or series will be best suited to your needs - it is as easy as that, and I'm still kicking myself that I did not think of it before! (On a side note, I came upon this revelation while looking through the Luxe Guides for London and Los Angeles; I'd never seen them before, but if you are looking for something stylish, compact, humorous and with some really cool hangouts listed, I recommend you take a look!)

Where is your dream travel destination, or the next place you are going to be heading off to on your travels?

Monday, 28 January 2013

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: Joan's On Third, West Hollywood

The problem about not living in London this year, is that I really, really miss eating in and picking up little foodie treats to take home with me from Ottolengi's. However, I think I might have found a pretty fantastic Los Angeles alternative in Joan's on Third; the famous Italian inspired deli on West Hollywood's stretch of 3rd Street. I had a fantastic lunch there sitting at their big communal table, and gazed longingly at all the takeaway goodies in their class cabinets. I think I regret not sampling more of their luscious cakes!
DSC_0308 joans2 DSC_0276 DSC_0241
Their cold salads ans meats display had me standing there for a very, very long time trying to decide what to have for lunch. In the end I decided to go for one of their sandwiches off of the board, as looking around me everyone munching on one looked very, very satisfied. However, I feel I will be popping back in for some salads to take away with me and eat at home the next time I find myself in the area!
DSC_0296 DSC_0289 DSC_0226 joans1 DSC_0267
I ended up going for their Prosciutto, Mozzarella and Roasted Pepper sandwich, and I chose to have it on toasted French bread. While all the bread in Joan's was nice and authentic  most American bread has so much sugar and preservative packed into it I've got into the habit of ordering French style bread most of the time; it is the one they screw up the least! Based on this sandwich, I will also be having more Joan's sandwiches in the future; it was divine and very filling - if I had not been so hungry at the time, I might have taken the second half of it away with me to eat for dinner that night - talk about American portion sizes!
Evie ordered an incredible slice of Joan's carrot cake. I wish I'd had the carrot cake too. She offered me a bite, and I have to say that it is the very best carrot cake I have ever tasted in my entire life. I need the recipe in my life. If you are at all a carrot cake fan you live in Los Angeles, or you are coming to Los Angeles any time soon, you need to make the pilgrimage. The cake is rich, delicious and moist. The frosting is sweet, without being too sweet and it looks absolutely incredible on the plate. My mouth is watering even writing about it!

Angelenos, what is your favourite thing to order from Joan's on Third? Is there anything you'd really recommend to me? My roommate says the Lemon Slices are also divine. Joan's on Third can be found at 8350 West 3rd Street.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Outfit Post: Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen & Win A Pair Of Designer Sunglasses From The Sunglasses Shop

While in England during Winter you sometimes need to don sunglasses for something like driving, for most of the year your favourite frames stay stowed away for most of the year waiting for the few days of true Summer sunshine was can enjoy each year. However, due to not just the weather, but due to the quality and the brightness of the light, here in Southern California I have found that sunglasses are a necessary accessory the whole year around, which means I can indulge in loads of different shapes and styles of designer sunglasses without feeling I'm going overboard! Also, I wish to note at the outset that the style and my outfit in these pictures may seem a little familiar; the wonderful Nicole Anderson was awesome enough to shoot this feature after we'd finished shooting the pictures for my Portraiteer interview. Didn't she do an amazing job?
The Alexander McQueen sunglasses featured in this post were a kind gift from online sunglasses retailer Sunglasses Shop and I have been wearing them absolutely everywhere. They are the perfect style for me; I love the tortoiseshell and the little design details and that they tint the Los Angeles clouds and sunsets a beautiful hue so that the world around me looks like a skyscape from a Renaissance painting, but with the edition of Southern Californian palm trees. Oversized sunglasses are a very LA thing, so they also help me blend in!
rachelphipps019 sunglasses2
Sunglasses: Alexander McQueen c/o Sunglasses Shop, Necklace: Hobbs, Trench Coat: United Colours Of Benetton c/o Zalando, Top: Boden, Skirt: Whistles

As well as gifting me these sunglasses, the guys at Sunglasses Shop want to offer one of my lucky readers the chance to win a pair of sunglasses from the Vogue collection. The giveaway is via Rafflecopter form as usual, but the giveaway is open Worldwide (I promised you there would be a giveaway that everyone could enter soon!) and all you have to do is be a follower of this blog via Bloglovin' or Google Friend Connect, like 'Rachel Phipps' on Facebook, and like 'Sunglasses Shop' on Facebook and leave a comment on the Sunglasses Shop Facebook wall with the words 'Enter Rachel Phipps' Vogue Giveaway included in your comment!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Where are your favourite pair of sunglasses from?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Style Inspiration: A New Year, A New Watch

It is still January, so I can still technically be writing New Year posts, right? I've already written about how I feel the new year calls for a new pair of shoes, but recently I've found myself looking at peoples wrists when I first meet them. We're all familiar with the now classic arm party by now, but I now have a new obsession to spy; beautiful chunky watches. I think the reason I'm so obsessed with other peoples wrist wear at the moment, is I know I won't ever wear a big chunky watch myself; I hate having something bulky weighing my wrists or hands down (I don't wear rings either, and the big bandage currently adorning my left index finger as the result of a rather interesting incident while I was out to brunch one Sunday morning is driving me up the wall!); I'm perfectly happy with my tiny Citizen dress watch thank you very much!
While fashion styles used to be in Vogue, now I think it is more about the very metallic, classic everyday but still chunky watch (you can get lots of designer styles on sites like this), as shown here on Brooklyn Blond. I love how her watch is an understated part of her look, by itself and not highlighted, but it perfectly balances out the bracelets she is wearing on her other wrist, and the shot just would not seem the same without it. Think styles by Chanel and Michael Kors (their iconic rose gold watch would be perfect to achieve this look with.)

Do you like to change up the styles and fashions with your watch, or are you a 'one and done type' of girl with your wrist wear? (Also, kudos to those of you who can tell me what hit ABC show I have lifted that expression from!) 

This is a featured post. To read my policy on featured posts, please click here.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: Toast, West Hollywood

I think I have found my new favourite restaurant in Los Angeles. Before visiting I'd heard a lot about Toast on the West Hollywood stretch of the stylish 3rd Street; that the food was amazing, and that is was where all the 'cool' people and 'celebrities' hung out. However, it was when my friend Evie, a friend from London, visiting from the San Francisco sat down to peruse our menus, and could both smell all of the absolutely delicious food being delivered to the tables around us did we know that we were going to really, really enjoy our meal.
While there was simply so much on the menu we both could have happily eaten our way through, we both ended up going for a serving of Shakshuka; beautifully presented in miniature skillets and serves with lots of warm, fresh bread to scoop up the delicious roasted tomatoes, garlic and the deliciously runny eggs. There are also other food pictures in this post. Okay, so we may or may not have eaten at Toast twice that week...
DSC_0078 DSC_0072 toast3 DSC_0042 toast1
I like that Los Angeles is a place that, regardless of the time of year you can choose to sit in the sunshine.
DSC_0061 DSC_0069
Each breakfast egg dish on the menu comes with a choice of a chopped salad, fried potatoes or fruit on the side. Evie did not want hers, so I chose to have the potatoes and the salad as it was supposed to be a lunchtime affair. However, looking across at other tables next time I thought I was going to get an Egg Scramble and some fruit on the side, but we actually went back for another lunch at Toast later in the week.
Served with sweet potato fries, I think Toast's Classic Hamburger has to be one of the best burgers I've ever had. It was sweet, succulent  meaty and perfectly cooked to the medium rare I requested. I cannot think how they could have made it better! It might have ruined me for all other burgers in the future.
Second time round Evie went for the granola. She gave me a piece. It was rather delicious! Also, served with fresh fruit and yogurt, doesn't it look like the ultimate brunch dish? Those sliced strawberries and blueberries are making my mouth water by just looking at the photo.

Angelenos, or anyone else who regularly visits Los Angeles on a regular basis, if you have not already been for a meal at Toast, do so as soon as possible; I promise you you won't regret, or forget it! Toast can be found at 8221 West 3rd Street between North La Cienega Boulevard and South Crescent Heights Boulevard. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Weekly Love: Week 126

I have seen a awful lot of Los Angeles this week. This only half accounts for the super bumper edition of 'Weekly Love' this week! My friend Evie from London came to stay via San Francisco, so we've been out every day exploring and eating in so many of the amazing restaurants this fantastic city has to offer; look out for lots of food posts coming soon! I hope everyone back in England has been staying warm; I'm so glad I don't have to deal with all the snow this year! However, we did have about a week of uncharacteristically bitingly cold weather, but I'm sorry to say for all of you back home, the traditional LA sunshine is back in full force!
1. I love the amazing new Madewell store at The Grove in Beverly Hills. | 2. Wearing my J.Crew boots and favourite Whistles skirt, waiting outside The Sycamore Kitchen. | 3. Cold January days call for brightly coloured working lunches. | 4. Brunch at Toast in West Hollywood, my new favourite place to eat in Los Angeles: a full post about the restaurant to follow soon! | 5. Goodies from TLT, my favourite take away place in Westwood. I am munching on my leftovers from that massive dish of their amazing Steak Fries you can see in the picture as I type! | 6. Classic Los Angeles palm trees.

I spent a lot of time creating content, and working on post ideas for 2013 over Christmas, but after looking at the comments, Tweets and emails I got from a lot of you on my post about why I think bloggers should never take their blog for granted saying they really liked reading a bit more personal posts and I should do more of them, I have decided that I am going to take some time in posts to talk about bits of my life and my experiences - I certainly got a lot of feedback for my two part post I did for The High Tea Cast about my experience 'rushing' an American sorority! Something I seem to get loads of questions about, is what it was like to attend a boarding school, and I think now I've been out of school for about a year and a half, I can finally write about the experience of those 8 years of my childhood and teens subjectively  so if anyone has any questions, anything they'd like to know about boarding school life and my experiences feel free to comment on this post, sent me a Tweet or email me - I'm planning the post for the end of the month. 
This photo is from a photo shoot I did with the amazing Nicole Anderson after she interviewed me for a profile on her brand new blog; The Portraiteer where she profiles up and coming creatives, mostly based in LA but in other places too. I just want to take this moment to thank Nicole for featuring me, and for the amazing afternoon I spent with her working towards this feature. To see more photos from our afternoon, and read the interview with me, click here. Just an FYI, that afternoon I was wearing a Whistles skirt, Boden top, J.Crew boots, a trench coat from Benetton which was a gift from the guys at Zalando last Spring, and my bag and necklace are both from Hobbs - one of my go to outfits when I want to look a little glamourous! 
7. A California classic; the In-N-Out burger, a little treat for lunch before my first class of the year! | 8. I spend way too much of my time in Georgetown Cupcake inhaling their chocolate ganache cupcakes. | 9. Testing the American version of the Easter Classic; the Cadbury Creme Egg. My verdict? Way, way too sweet! | 10. My first Starbucks of 2013. | 11. Raspberry and Ginger Scones made from The Joy The Baker Cookbook.  | 12. Checking out the brand new Isabel Marant store on Melrose Place.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I'm heading down to Venice Beach tomorrow, and on Sunday I'm going to start work on my paper for my Milton class. Also, I'm really looking forward to the third episode of Mr Selfridge on Sunday night, it is amazing to see the story behind my favourite department store of all time!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

My 5 Favourite Los Angeles Shopping Destinations

As much as the next girl (and probably a little bit more) I love to shop. Even if I'm not spending any money, I can never get enough of window shopping. It is a great way to just step away from everything that is going on, and also to find ideas and inspiration for my blog. When I was living in London and I just wanted to get out of my flat, I always jumped on the Central Line an headed either East to Westfield Stratford City (I must be one of the few fashion orientated Londoners who actually prefers shopping in Stratford to White City) or West to Regents Street, Carnaby Street and my spiritual home; Selfridges. When I was at home in the countryside and I needed to get out, I always got in my car and drove to Canterbury. Now I've been living in Los Angeles for a good few months, I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite places to either go and shop, or to window shop, that you can keep in mind if you're a shopaholic like me and ever visiting the city!
The Farmers Market
1. The Farmers Market

I think the fact that what used to be a fashion blog when I started it almost four years ago has almost totally morphed into a foodie blog with little bits of fashion, travel and some outfit posts thrown in stands testament to how much I love anything and everything to do with food. The 5th entry on this shopping hotspot roundup is The Grove shopping mall, but my favourite thing about visiting The Grove is not the shops that are there; but The Farmers Market that is attached to it. They have restaurants and street food stalls for every and every world food destination as well as a brilliant gourmet and hard to find food stores, and a brilliant fresh product market. When I stop by I always pick up French Bread, Belgium Chocolate and Italian Passata from Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market (their attached restaurant is really good too, they also have a branch at the J.Crew & Apple Store end of 3rd Street).
3rd Street Santa Monica
2. 3rd Street, Santa Monica

Out of all of the shopping destinations on my list, if I'm after a straightforward shopping experience with the largest selection of shops, it is the famous 3rd Street just a few blocks away from the ocean in Santa Monica I'll always head for. What is more, with their massive Sephora, spacious J.Crew and their newly opened Madewell store, they now have all of my favourite stores in one place, as well as almost every other shop you can think of. The surrounding streets also have some brilliant stores, as well as the best T.J.Maxx for designer clothes I've ever been in (does anyone know why T.K.Maxx in the UK is T.J.Maxx in the USA?) And if you get bored of shopping, you can always hit up Santa Monica's famous pier. Just a thought! 
Westfiled Century City
3. Westfield, Century City

There are lots of other awesome things about this particular Westfield (I don't think I'll ever be able to look Stratford City and White City back in London in the same way ever again, this one is more like an open air shopping village, think White City without the stupidly busy indoor bit. Also, as there is way more shopping destinations in Los Angeles, it is much quieter and less crowded), but the one draw for me is that they have J.Crew where I can get a student discount with my UCLA Bruin Card, and a Madewell store basically next to each other. There is also a pretty Kate Spade boutique, and it is the opposite side of Santa Monica Blvd. to my favourite of the two Sugar Paper, Los Angeles stores so you can go and stock up on cute stationary in the same trip; two rather beautiful shopping birds killed with one stone!
Local 1205
4. Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice

While most of my favourite destinations are pretty generic and predictable as far as what stores are available are concerned, if you're after a little something different and indie, you cannot go wrong with Venice's Abbot Kinney Boulevard. I always make my first stop Local 1205 to pick up one of their mason jars full of fresh pressed juice and a straw to sip as I wander up and down the street checking out the eclectic mix of independent stores, high end boutiques and the most amazing little curiosities and homewares store.
The Grove
5. The Grove

Right next to The Farmers Market, if I loved The Grove when I first moved to Los Angeles, I absolutely adore it now. As well as my favourite stores like J.Crew and Madewell, there is a really good Banana Republic  a brilliant Gap, and the Forever 21 there actually sells some of the nicer, classier items from their collections. There is also some great restaurants  a massive cinema, a Barnes & Noble (it is pretty hard to drag me away from a bookshop at the best of times, and this one has many floors and a fantastic cookery section) and there are always events going on in the lovely courtyard that makes The Grove into more of a shopping village than a mall, even complete with a little train that goes around. It looked fantastic over Christmas with all the lights on display, and they even had fake snow falling some evenings!

Angelenos, where are your favourite shopping spots in the city, and do you have any to recomend to me? (Preferably on the Westside, as it is hell getting around without having a car!)

Monday, 14 January 2013

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: The Sycamore Kitchen

On Thursday afternoon I agreed to meet photographer Nicole Anderson so she could profile me for her new project; The Portraiteer, a lovely blog profiling bloggers and their creative stories and inspirations, accompanied by some of Nicoles beautiful portraits of their meeting. I had a wonderful afternoon shooting with Nicole, but more on that later. For now, I want to talk about the place we met. She let me choose the location for our meeting, and as I'd seen a couple of delicious dishes popping up in my Instagram feed all tagged as being taken at 'The Sycamore Kitchen', I agreed to meet Nicole at this lovely sounding and very photogenic eatery in La Brea for a bite to eat and a chat before we headed out to take photos.
DSC_0027 DSC_0073 DSC_0031
While I managed to restrain myself in the end, when I was at the counter to place my order, I had it in my mind that I was going to pick up some of their delicious and mouthwatering cakes and pastries to take away with me; how amazing do these look? In retrospect, I regret not sampling a piece of that Coconut Layer Cake.
sycamore1 DSC_0072 DSC_0036
I always love photos people take and post on their blogs, or their Instagram feeds of cappuccinos, but I myself don't drink coffee, so I was excited when Nicole ordered one that I could happily shoot away at. I think it is just that mass of smooth yet light foam with the different shades of coloured swirls on top that just captivate me.
For my refreshment, I had one of their house specials; Ginger Limeade. It was absolutely delicious, something I'd recommend picking up if you happen to be passing. It is rapidly becoming a simple fact in my mind that to have a delicious pressed juice, ginger must be added to the mix in some shape or form to give it that kick.
DSC_0034 DSC_0051
Usually when I'm visited a place to review, I like to scope out the menu online first, so I arrive at the restaurant or the cafe with a good idea of what I'm going to order. I was thinking a salad, but that idea went right out the window and spied an item that seemed both delicious  and slightly unusual that I must have overlooked. I ordered the Roasted Chicken Breast, Green Olive Tapenade, Meyer Lemon Confit, Tomato, Frisse and Mayonaise on Country Bread. I think it was the lemon that struck me as an unusual addition, but its balance of sharpness and sweet in every bite made it the very best bit of the sandwich.
I've borrowed this photo from Nicole's Instagram Feed. It perfectly demonstrates what it is like to go out to eat someplace with me. Not only do I have to get my massive DSLR camera out of my bag to take photographs of the food and the restaurant for the blog, but I have to whip out my iPhone to Instagram my meal too!
Finally getting to bite into that sandwich; it was delicious, the lemons really added something to it, and I don't think I can remember the last time I had a sandwich that good. And for my readers in my hometown of Canterbury, yes I mean this sandwich was much better than anything you could possibly put together from C.J's or Canteen. My only qualm with it was it was quite a messy eat, the sandwich dripped quite a bit, so god knows what I looked like trying to eat it while I was trying to respond to interview questions at the same time!

Angeleno's, have you visited The Sycamore Kitchen yet? What is your favourite item on their menu? The Sycamore Kitchen can be found at 143 South La Brea Avenue, just below West 1st Street.  

Friday, 11 January 2013

Recipe: Perfectly Creamy Mustard Mashed Potatoes

I think it was on Christmas Eve I was brainstorming what I was going to have with the steak I cooked for my Christmas dinner, and after gazing at my open fridge door for about 15 minutes, I decided to have a bash at making some mashed potatoes; while I usually opt for meals that are all in one, rather than with separate meat/ veg components, as it was Christmas I think I ought to make an effort. Now, anyone who, like me who went to a British Boarding School will tell you about mashed potatoes. Unless the food at their school was particularly good (at my second school it was fantastic, but at my first it was merely average), we will tell you that we don't like mashed potato. It was always dry, lacked flavour and if you left it a bit too long on the plate it made for an excellent sculpture medium, as many of us discovered to our delight. 
As with many of the things I'd been fed at school (none of my boarding schools compare to the school I attended until the age of 10, if it were not for my mother cooking me a fantastic breakfast and dinner every day before and after school I think I might have been rather malnourished!), I decided I did not like them, without really trying them. For years, I adamantly told my mother I hated mashed potato. However, when she finally coaxed me into trying hers they became one of my favourite incarnations of the humble potato; rich, creamy and decidedly more-ish. This version of mashed potatoes are a hybrid between my mothers mash, and the base of what I use to make homemade fishcakes; the wholegrain mustard gives the fluffy potatoes a decided kick which makes them a feature of the meal, rather than just a side dish. Serves 4, easily halved or doubled. 

  • 2 Large Baking Potatoes
  • 2 tsp Wholegrain French Mustard 
  • 2 tbsp Milk or Single Cream (Heavy Cream)
  • 50g Unsalted Butter
  • 2-3 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
  • Freshly Ground Salt & Pepper 

Peel the potatoes and cut into medium chunks. Put in a large saucepan of salted cold water, and put on the heat until the water is boiling. Add the rosemary sprigs to the water, and cook for about 20-25 minutes until all the potato pieces are cooked through and you can stick a knife through them with ease.   Drain the potatoes, making sure you remove all the stray pieces of rosemary and discarding them. Break the potatoes down with a hand held potato masher, and add the milk and half the butter. Mash well until the potatoes have a smooth and creamy texture. Add a little bit more milk if you think they could be smoother. Mash in the rest of the butter along with a good couple of grinds of salt and pepper. Add the mustard and mix well before serving, topped with another knob of butter and some fresh thyme or chopped chives if you're setting them out in a warm dish to serve, rather than dishing it up onto everyones plates for an informal meal. 

While they go really well with anything pork and beef (what you'd usually serve mustard with), I really enjoy these potatoes serve with sausage meatballs (remove the sausage meat from the sausage, divide and roll into meatballs, brown and seal the meat in a pan of hot oil, then bake in an oven the usual amount of time you'd cook the sausage) and onion gravy. This is the fate that the bowl of mash in the photograph met!

What are your favourite potato or vegetable side dishes? 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Blogger Talk: Why You Should Never Take Your Blog For Granted

Every few days here in Los Angeles, usually when I'm paying for something in a store, someone takes a double take at my accent, and after I have explained that yes, I am British, that I come from the home of Kate Middleton, Harry Potter and Downton Abbey they ask me if I am here on holiday. I reply no, and that I live here. They ask me what for, and I'm momentarily stumped. There are a few seconds when I have no idea how to answer them, then I rattle off the most acceptable and quickly explainable answer for my presence in one of the most famous cities in the world; I'm here to study. I'm enrolled at UCLA. I say this because it is the truth; UCLA is the official reason I decided to move half way around the world, and it is the reason I managed to get a student visa that made it possible. However, the reason I pause, that I have that little moment of indecision is because in my head, while I do attend classes, and for the most part enjoy them, school is not the main or biggest reason I decided to spend the year living in Los Angeles. 
Blogging from inspiration found in some of my favourite French fashion magazines sitting on my bed at my parents French house in 2011. I think there was a plate of macarons somewhere out of shot. Sharing my life in France and connecting with French readers the same way I'd done with readers living in the countryside like me, and I would later do with readers in London and Los Angeles made me realised that I could do whatever I wanted with blogging.

There are other, more personal reasons I could give for deciding to essentially put my life in Kent and in London on hold for 10 months, but for me the main reason why I chose Los Angeles as my destination (and decided to apply to study in America in the first place), was for my blog (because honestly, how awesome was a years worth of LA based content going to be? It is a simple truth of my life that now whenever I think of a holiday destination the very first thing I think about is how easy it will be to blog about!) It's funny, from something I started while I was supposed to be doing my homework in my dormitory at boarding school almost 4 years ago to channel my excess creativity (anyone who has ever taken GCSE Art can tell you that the exam is enough to stamp out most of your creative spark!) my blog has turned into my biggest and most enjoyable project; it has really become part of me, and part of my identity; experiences I've had, lessons learnt and opportunities I've gained through blogging have shaped the person I am growing up to be. Looking back over the last few years and realising this, as well as finally getting some idea of what I would like to do with the rest of my life and knowing I would never have discovered something I am so passionate about without my blog to help me along, makes me realise that us bloggers, be we the people who just write the odd post at weekends around their job as a creative outlet, or work hard like me to try and realise the dream of blogging full time for their career; none of us should ever take our blogs for granted. Blogging is an ever changing, ever evolving field, and looks totally different to how it did when I first started. Pouring all of your love and passion into your blog and not taking it for granted guarantees you'll be able to reap benefits that have not even been thought of yet.
So, aside from simply sharing this rather reflective post slash inspirational message, why am I choosing to write this now? Well, some of you may have heard of The Blogcademy, a two day traveling blogging workshop run by Gala Darling, Kat Williams (you might know her as the pink haired face behind Rock 'N' Roll Bride) and Shauna Haider (who is better known as Nubby Twiglet) which has already taken New York City by storm, and will be heading to London pretty soon. Now, while I'm usually a Londoner, they've just announced dates for Blogcademy in Portland and in Los Angeles, and I will still be residing in this amazing city when they arrive here, and obviously I want to attend one of their workshops - I've wanted to learn from these three bloggers who I've been reading (and admiring their business skills) for years since I heard about the first New York workshop. Unfortunately as a student I can't really afford the classes (like I'm glad the IFB Conference has always been in New York in the past, as I don't have to care too much that I can't afford the price of the ticket!), but lucky for some, Blogcademy offers a scholarship for each weekend so one lucky student can attend. I think you can all see where this is going now; this blog post doubles as my Blogcademy scholarship piece! Some people for past scholarship entries have made videos, or collages, but while it may seem pretty basic and simple I decided to just write; because before anything and everything else I am a writer. (Okay, I'm also a cook, but in my LA apartment I don't have the equipment to make a Blogcademy inspired layer cake or cupcake tower!)

So, why should Gala, Kat and Shauna, the Blogcademy 'headmistresses' pick my entry to win a Blogcademy scholarship to attend in April? Well, I think the first and main reason (aside from the ones I've already mentioned, blogging being part of my identity etc.) is that I can't really see myself doing anything else with my life than blogging, and working on other creative projects that all stem from my blog. I've always loved writing and photography, and discovering the world of blogging where I could combine both of those things into posts that I could share for other people to enjoy is simply the most amazing thing, and since I worked out how to make a little money from it, I kept wanting to make my blog bigger, better and of a higher quality every single week yes, to make more money, but so I could have something to show from the hours I spend hunched over my Mac Book that I am really proud of. I used to paint and draw, and while I remember always feeling that little kick of self accomplishment whenever I finished a piece, it was nothing to how I felt when I was putting together my Retrospective on 2012 post and I looked back over my recipe posts for the year and saw how much through hard work and practice my food photography had improved. It really made me want to do better. 
Ironic I'm illustrating this with a photo that does not show my face, but blogging outfit posts helped me get over my adamant assertion that I am not at all photogenic, and stopped me hiding from being in photographs. Blogging also made me brave enough to experiment with wearing bright colours and prints, but thats another story!

Next, I need to learn new skills. Like as a kid I always felt I could learn more with my schoolwork (actually I still think that, I'm taking Milton yet again this quarter to try and drag yet more out of Paradise Lost!), I know that I will never stop learning important lessons from blogging that I can apply to my life and other projects. While I learn something new every day, be it about social media, or the technical side of blogging through my experiences every day, the thing I love the most about the world of blogging is that it is a community; we're always learning from each other. This is my roundabout way of saying I'd love to benefit from learning from other bloggers who have proven themselves to be successful  as well as from other Blogcademy students, as there is always more to learn. Back home working doing the PR and Marketing at Pilgrims Nook, people ask me where I learnt to do all the PR and social media for the company without ever having a formal job or training in social media. The answer? I learnt everything I apply to the business from experiences I've had blogging. It would have cost us a lot to get the online and media presence for our family business established if I had not been a blogger. With only 16 months left until I graduate and get thrown head first into the world of work, where I'll have my own rent to pay, aside from the worries of feeding myself etc., now is the time I really have to think about focusing and expanding my blogging and related skills in order to be able to keep on doing what I love. 

My third and final reason I would love to attend the upcoming LA edition of Blogcademy (kudos to everyone who is not my mother for still being with me at this point, apologies that this post has come to be a little bit longer than some of my usual wordy posts!) is I have plans. Big, blog related plans that while I'd love to share with you all, I can't yet, but I've been working on all Christmas and I will continue to work on throughout the New Year. You'll just have to trust me on this one. They're food related, and everything food related is worth waiting for, right? Anyway, these plans for the blog and for the real world as much as I'd love to make them a success, I know the headmistress have the skills I need to implement them, so I'd love the opportunity to pick their brains. Okay, so now I feel really cruel for leaving you hanging, so here is a recipe I found for Salted Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Crinkle Cookies instead, to say sorry! 

So on a parting note, if I do win the scholarship and get to attend Blogcademy in April, I promise I'll take lots of notes and share them all with you! Also, though I hate to ask at the end of such a long post, I would also really really appreciate it if you could show your support for my entry by either Tweeting Blogcademy or mentioning to them on Facebook that you'd love for me to be able to attend and take notes for your all!